Training Your Budgie: How To Tame a Parakeet
A Guide to Making Friends with Your New Pet Budgie!
First, the easiest way to hand train your new pet is to start with a baby budgie. Baby budgies have black button eyes, with no pupil or iris easily distinguished. They sometimes have a black tip on their beak, and often have dark stripes on their head feathers. The cere (the fleshy bit right on the top of their beak) will be soft and smooth. Budgies are ready to leave their parents at approximately 7 – 8 weeks old. Any budgie under 16 weeks of age is a baby and will be a good candidate for finger training and teaching to talk. Ask that his flight feathers be trimmed so he can’t fly off and hurt himself while you are getting to know each other.
Many people request a male budgie – incorrectly thinking that only male budgies can learn to speak. Females can talk too! Mature males and females have different coloured ceres, males have bright blue ceres, females can have pink or beige or even very pale blue ceres. You cannot accurately tell the gender of a budgie by looking at its cere until it is approximately 20 to 24 weeks old. A bird that age may be much harder to hand train and it will take longer for a bird that age to bond with its new family.
Start by Taking Your New Pet Home and Setting Him Up in His Cage.
Baby parakeets need to feel comfortable in their surroundings. Let it settle in for a day or two. You can sit quietly by its cage and talk to it, offer it bits of spray millet, and just observe its behaviour. Your budgie should be eating, drinking and exploring its cage and investigating his toys before you start to work with it.
Once He Has Settled In, You Can Begin Hand Training Your Budgie!
There are many ways to do this. One that works for many people is as follows:
- Pick a quiet time of day – one where you will not be interrupted or rushed for at least 30 minutes.
- Calm yourself down, get a small hand towel, and approach your budgie cage while speaking softly.
- Open the cage door and place the hand towel over the budgie.
- Use the towel to gently restrain the bird as you remove him from the cage. Hands should be for playing and cuddling, not chasing your little bird around the cage. He will associate the towel with being grabbed, not your hand. He won’t have a clue as to what you are doing and will flutter around. Just scoop him up, holding him gently – birds have hollow bones – you don’t want to crush or hurt him!
- Take him to a small, confined space away from his cage. It seems silly, but getting into the bathtub works really well. Put a towel/cushion down so you are comfortable, put the plug in so your bird doesn’t slip down the drain, and pull the shower curtain closed. With his wings clipped, your bird will not be able to fly up and away from you.
Happy budgie body language includes an all over feather fluff, happy tail wag, sitting up straight & tall, chirping.
Finger or Perch Training
You now have two choices – you can begin finger training your budgie right away, or you can use a perch to start your training. Budgies may nip at your fingers out of fear, if you are at all nervous about being bitten use a small wooden perch to train him.
- Put the perch or your finger under his feet, and release him from the towel. He will flutter off not knowing what you want him to do yet.
- Just drop the towel over him again, pick him up again and put him back on the perch/finger. You may have to repeat this six or seven times before he gets the idea that you want him to stay on the perch.
- Speak softly while you are working with him.
- Once he is sitting on the perch without taking off, praise him! Using a high-pitched voice, tell him what a clever bird he is. He will not understand your words, but will understand that you are happy with him. Once he gets the idea, you will know! Happy budgie body language includes an all over feather fluff, happy tail wag, and sitting up straight and tall and chirping.
The “Step Up”
You are now ready to begin the “step up” training.
- With the budgie sitting on one perch/finger, gently push another perch or finger into his tummy, right on top of his feet while saying “step up”. He may flutter off, but if you persist he will eventually lift one foot onto the new perch.
- Continue making this laddering up motion three or four times until he is stepping onto the new perch when it is offered.
- Remember to keep talking to him and praising him. Again, you will know when he has gotten the idea because he will puff up and look very proud of himself! Consistency is the key!
- Always use the same verbal command (step up) and the same physical clue (finger/perch in the same place each time).
- Once you have had a few step ups in a row, take a minute to give your pet a head rub/cuddle. Tell him what a great bird he is and then take him back to his cage for a rest and a treat. He has a lot to think about now!
Repetition is Key To Successful Budgie Training!
You should repeat the training sessions two or three times per day. The goal is to reach the point where you can open the cage, put your finger in and ask your budgie to step up onto your finger. He should not hesitate to do so, because “out of the cage time” will be play and cuddle time. Most young budgies only take a week or so to finger train. Do not just leave the cage door open for him to come and go as he pleases! A budgie that can decide for himself when he will come in and out is harder to train, and if he wanders on the floor looking for you he may get stepped on or lost.
Training After the “Step Up”
Once he is gladly stepping onto your finger, you can continue training your budgie to teach him new tricks! Parakeets will gladly lay in your hand for chin rubs (play “dead bird”), explore your pockets (be a “pocket parrot”), and ride on your shoulder (just like a “pirate parrot”)
Remember, birds need clean, safe environments to feel healthy and well. Wash and change water bowls twice daily, replace and top up food every day, change cage papers every day, offer your bird a bath/shower several times each week. An unwell bird makes a poor student!
Talk To Your Bird – Use An Excited Happy Tone
The closer the bond with you, the more motivated your bird will be to want to learn the language of his new flock leader (that’s you!). Baby birds are like all babies, they need lots of time to sleep and eat. Keep your training periods short, upbeat and fun for you both.
By: Lisa Mitchell